Darren Bailey uses scene of mass shooting to press his case against Pritzker on crime

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Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey held a news conference at the scene of a mass shooting on Chicago’s South Side Wednesday to press his argument that Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker doesn’t care enough about violence in Black communities, while also suggesting that residents of those communities don’t have a voice in criminal justice polices.

“J.B., how many more Black families have to mourn before you recognize that Black lives really do matter? Bailey said to reporters in Washington Park, where a shooting Tuesday night left two people dead and seven others wounded “J.B., your administration is absolutely incompetent. Our greatest city is a crime-ridden hellhole and you don’t care.”

Bailey argued that his promise to repeal a sweeping criminal justice law that backers say is aimed at reforming a system rife with racial disparities would lead to reduced violence in city neighborhoods.

The criminal justice reforms he was referring to were pushed through the Democratic-led Illinois General Assembly last year by a group of Black legislators, many of whom representing South and West side communities, and signed into law by Pritzker.

Republican candidate for governor Darren Bailey, shown at a Sept. 1, 2022, news conference outside The Emily Hotel in Chicago, talked about crime in the city and criticized Gov. J.B. Prtizker. (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)

Bailey was asked why much of the criticism about the reforms have come from the suburbs and downstate, where crime and violence isn’t as much of an issue as it is in Chicago.

“Maybe the South and West side doesn’t have a voice,” Bailey said.

“J.B. Pritzker, where are you at? (Mayor) Lori Lightfoot, where are you at? Are they here somewhere? (Cook County State’s Attorney) Kim Foxx, where are you at? There’s a problem here. People need a voice,” Bailey said.

While not offering any comprehensive solutions to combat the violence, Bailey said “my table will have a seat for everyone.”

Bailey, a wealthy farmer from downstate Xenia, acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he’s renting an apartment in 875 North Michigan Ave. building — formerly the John Hancock Center — along the Magnificent Mile and not far from the governor’s Gold Coast residence. Bailey has criticized Pritzker for having “soft hands and Gold Coast sensibilities,”

As Wednesday’s news conference concluded, Bailey was confronted by members of Acclivus, an anti-violence organization that mediates street conflicts. The group challenged Bailey to explain how he would improve conditions in violence-plagued South and West sides.

“The shootings that are taking place here in these neighborhoods … they need to be addressed and stopped,” Bailey told the group.

“You have a plan for that?” one man asked

“Yes sir, repealing the Safe-T Act,” Bailey answered, referring to the criminal justice reform law.

Monique Hawkins, a worker for Acclivus, complained to Bailey’s running mate, Stephanie Trussell, that Bailey, as a state senator, voted against legislation “to fund organizations like us.”

She was referring to his vote against Pritzker’s budget, which allocates roughly $240 million for anti-violence groups.

“A lot of times, as you know, bills have so many things in it that you have to make a tough decision,” said Trussell, a former conservative radio host who grew up on Chicago’s West Side. “But a lot of times those bills are filled with things that money doesn’t even get down to where it’s supposed to go.”

“This is where it starts,” Bailey said to the group. “We want to make change. This is how things happen. We start speaking up. We start making noise. We start showing up for the first time we meet. Let’s change that.”

jgorner@chicagotribune.com

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September 14, 2022 at 10:41PM

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